Most people think of Benjamin Franklin as the man who discovered electricity, and they would be right, but there was really so much more to the man that just that. While we think of Ben Franklin as a genius, and he was, he only had two years of actual schooling. After that, he quit school to help his family make soap and candles, and later, joined his brother, James as an indentured apprentice at a printing shop when he was twelve. This led to an obsession for books. Franklin loved the written word, and spent much of the little money he made to buy books. Because of his love of books, he became known as an author, printer, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, activist, statesman, and diplomat…all of it self taught.
While much of Ben Franklin’s life was centered around serious accomplishments, he also had a human side. There were things that he felt strongly about. He left 2,000 pounds of sterling silver to Boston and Philadelphia, with the stipulation that the money be held for 100 years, and then a small percentage could be used for loans for local tradesmen. After that, the rest was to be saved for another 100 years. The rest of the funds were used to build the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston. I’m not sure that was exactly what he wanted done with that balance, but it is a nice way to honor his memory.
Ben Franklin believed in the importance of fire prevention, and created the first volunteer fire department in 1736 called the Union Fire Company. Because he created it, the company was often called Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade. He also loved swimming, and he was a bit of an inventor there too. As a child, he used a kite to skim across the water, and he invented a pair of hand paddles that he used to navigate the Charles River. He was given an honorary induction in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
All that is interesting, but to me one of his coolest accomplishments was the Glass Armonica. You might be wondering what that is, but if you have ever played a water glass with a damp finger, you would have a pretty good idea how to play the Glass Armonica. Debuted in 1761, it was beautifully engineered with blown glass bowls. To play it, you simply wet your fingers and touched the various bowls to get a variety of sounds. The instrument was so popular that Beethoven and Mozart began creating music for it. Unfortunately the novelty wore off after a time, and that is why most people don’t even know what it is today. Ben Franklin was a man of many talents, and yet all we ever really thought about was the discovery of electricity.
It would be hard for me to imagine walking away from all I knew to travel to India to begin a thirteen year run as the wife of a missionary, especially in 1874, but that is exactly what Mary Barr Uhl did. Mary was a somewhat distant cousin on my husband, Bob’s side of the family…specifically the Knox side of his family. The beginnings of her future mission were actually laid by when she was still a child. An elderly relative, Dr John Scudder laid his hand on her head and stated his wish for her to become a missionary. I’m sure that for a little girl, being a missionary meant very little, but as she grew, perhaps the words stayed with her. Sometimes, when we think about something like that for so many years, events in our lives line up to put us in exactly the right position to fulfill just such a mission, without our really thinking about it very much at all. Such was the case for little Mary Barr.
Mary Barr was born in Savannah, Ohio, and was educated there and in Springfield, Ohio. As was the case with most girls in those days, becoming a teacher was the degree of choice, and so Mary Barr became a teacher. As time went by, it’s possible that the desire of the elderly Dr John Scudder to have Mary become a missionary, faded into the past to a degree, until she met Lemon Leander Uhl. Leander as he was called, was a pastor in the Lutheran church. Dr Uhl was a graduate of Wittenberg College and Seminary in Springfield, Ohio, and did his post graduate work at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The couple married in the fall of 1872, and Dr Uhl became a missionary in the India field of the General Synod, Lutheran Church. Thus, the desire of Mary’s relative, Dr John Scudder, became a reality. Leander and Mary would spend the next thirteen years in the mission field in India. Mary and Leander arrived in Guntur, India in March of 1873. Mary opened the first school for girls of the upper classes and the first Zenana work for the same classes. She carried on both forms of mission work for many years. Mary’s perseverance and dedication won her great respect in that country. She was an untiring worker among the Telugu Hindus, and aided her husband in the Anglo Vernacular School by visiting the young men students in their homes.
Mary and Leander’s only child, Grace was born in Guntur, India during those missionary years. That is another thing I can’t quite imagine…having my baby so far away from my mother, and the doctors that I trusted in the United States, but by then, perhaps Mary felt comfortable with the help she had around her. It didn’t matter really, because she had no choice. You can’t stop babies from coming when it’s time. You just have to go through it. For Mary, childbirth went well, and she had a beautiful little daughter. It was by the grace of God, and so they named her Grace. While I’m sure that giving birth in a foreign country might have been an event filled with apprehension, the life they gave their daughter was one of many experiences. Not only did Grace experience life in another country, but she experienced schooling in many places. Grace would graduate from the College of Liberal Arts of Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Mary Barr Uhl’s life took many turns that might have seemed far fetched to a child, who had been told of the desire of an elderly relative, but in the end, the desire of Dr John Scudder, that little Mary Barr would become a missionary had come to pass. Her life was not ruled by this man, it was just his desire…that became her desire too. Perhaps he saw something in that little girl that told him that she would be a great missionary. I suppose we will never know, but Mary did indeed, become a great missionary, and spent many years serving God in that capacity before retiring and returning to the United States. She died on March 26, 1926 at the age of 80 years, having fulfilled her destiny.
College graduation means the end of all the years of schooling, and the beginning of the rest of your life. Now it’s time to set out set out and find that perfect job to get your career moving in the right direction. That’s supposed to be the next step right? Right, but what about when there is something else that steps in and demands all the attention first. My niece, Lindsay graduated from South Dakota State University on Saturday, with a Masters Degree in Exercise Science. There are so many things she can do at this point. She once told me about all the possibilities, which were widely varied. She will have the ability to go into a wide range of careers…just from one degree. I am very proud of Lindsay’s accomplishments.
Lindsay’s graduation day was a wonderful event that took a tiny, unexpected turn. In front of her family, all of whom were very pleased, Lindsay’s boyfriend, Shannon asked for her hand in marriage. It is a rare event, when the future bride’s family gets to witness the proposal, but this was to be one of those special proposals. I can imagine how my future nephew’s heart was pounding, because even though they have been dating for a long time now, this is a big step, and he wanted it to be perfect. He wanted to ask Lindsay in exactly the right way…the perfect proposal. When Lindsay said yes…Shannon’s heart was really pounding, but then, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
Lindsay’s college graduation party was transformed from a graduation party to a very special graduation/engagement party. The celebration that followed was made extra special because while graduation is the end of schooling and the beginning of life; engagements are always the beginning of something. It is the beginning of a new life…one as a couple instead of an individual. Their love is now moving on to the next level…the happily ever after level. The journey ahead is yet to be planned. Like the wedding day, it is theirs to build into the perfect life for them. Congratulations of your engagement,Lindsay and Shannon!! May God richly bless your life together. We love you very much!!